by Christy Heitger-Ewing

Trends come and go, but increasingly homeowners are interested in building welcoming homes that invite the outside in with lots of natural light. Emily Handke does custom architectural design in a variety of styles, including modern, contemporary, transitional, and traditional.

“I’ve never done the same home twice,” says Handke, owner of Emily Handke Design. Recently, she’s seen a surge in clients requesting a more modern aesthetic.

“It’s not just a cold, harsh, white and grey box type of thing,” says Handke. “These homes are done in a way that are still warm and cozy, offering a wood tone look with a mix of contemporary cladding and stone.”

These requests are taking her back to her Seattle roots where she first started designing contemporary waterfront homes.

“I brought that Pacific Northwest style to the Midwest with me,” says Handke.

One of the two main elements of this contemporary style involves clean roof lines that typically combine a flat roof with another style of roof – say, a hip roof, shed roof, or gable roof. For instance, Handke recently designed a home for G&G Custom Homes where for every section there’s a two-story gable roof, there’s a flat roof section that conjoins them.

The other big design element in contemporary style is incorporating expansive glass. Handke recently designed a house where the entire main floor is floor-to-ceiling glass. The upstairs is almost the same.

“When you’re inside the great room, you can look up and all four walls feature glass transoms to let light flood in,” says Handke, who designed the home such that there is a double-sided fireplace just as you come in the front door. Then when you go around the back side, it leads into the great room. A waterfall cantilevers off the back of the house, which protrudes like an arm and projects water into the pool. The covered outdoor dining area enables homeowners to dine under the waterfall.

“The clients were inspired by vacations they have taken to different places that had contemporary designs,” says Handke. “They wanted to incorporate those elements into their home and make it feel like a resort.”

Mission accomplished. In addition to the clean roof lines, extensive glass, and luxurious waterfall, the home also has a rooftop putting green, outdoor bar, sunken firepit by the pool, and an undercover boardwalk that wraps around the perimeter of the home’s exterior. In addition, Handke designed a steel skybridge off the front of the house.

All of Handke’s clients appreciate that she provides 3-D renderings every step of the way through the design process.

“Rather than doing drawings by hand and only finalizing the design in 3-D when it’s too late to make changes, we use 3-D renderings as a working tool to help clients envision all elements of the house,” says Handke. “We can spin the house around so they can see the exterior style, what the materials look like, and what the roofline looks like.”

“Clients know what they’re getting is exactly what they want versus waiting until the house has been framed and then thinking, ‘Wait, that’s not what I wanted,’” says Handke.

It’s not unusual for a client to walk into their house for the first time and say, “Wow, I feel like I’ve been in here before!”

“That’s because of the renderings,” says Handke. “They have physically seen this exact view with the ceilings, the windows, etcetera. Still, it’s a crazy feeling when they walk into a space that’s precisely what I’ve shown them throughout the design process.”